The Abbasid Caliphate in Iraq

When mawlā Abū Muslim raised black banners in the name of the Abbasids (a branch of the family of the Prophet, distantly related to ʿAlī and his descendants) in 747 AD in northeastern Iran (Khorāsān), opposition to the Umayyads finally came to a head. In 749 the armies from the east came to Iraq, where they were welcomed and received the support of most of the population. The Abbasids themselves arrived from their isolated estate at Ḥumaymah in southern Jordan, and in the year 749 AD the first Abbasid caliph, Abū al-ʿAbbās (al-Saffāḥ), was pronounced caliph in the mosque at Kūfah. This “Abbasid Revolution” ushered in the Islamic Iraq’s golden age. Khorāsān being on the fringes of the Muslim world was unsuitable to be the capital, and hence right from the outset the Abbasid caliphs made Iraq their base. By this time Islam in Iraq had spread outside the original garrison towns, although Muslims were still a minority of the population.
Initially the Abbasids ruled from Kūfah or proximate, but in 762 al-Manṣūr (754–775) established a new capital on the site of the old village of Baghdad. It was officially named as Madīnat al-Salām (“City of Peace”), but in popular usage the longstanding name prevailed. Baghdad very soon became larger than any other city in either Middle East or Europe. Al-Manṣūr built the colossal Round City with four gates with his palace and the main mosque in the centre. This Round City was solely a government quarter, and almost immediately after its construction the markets were displaced to the Karkh suburb to the south.
The placement of Baghdad proved to be an act of genius. It had access to both the Euphrates and the Tigris river systems and was nearby to the main route through the Zagros Mountains to the Iranian plateau. Dates and rice from Basra and the south and wheat and barley from Al-Jazīrah could be transported in by water. By the year 800 the city may already have had as many as 500,000 inhabitants and was a significant commercial centre apart from being the seat of government. The city developed at the expense of other centres, and both the early Islamic centre at Kūfah and the old Sasanian capital at Ctesiphon fell into decline.
The high point of prosperity was perhaps reached during the reign of Hārūn al-Rashīd (786–809), when Iraq was very much the heart of the empire and riches poured into the capital from throughout the Muslim world. The prosperity and order in the southern part of the nation were, nevertheless, offset by outbreaks of lawlessness in Al-Jazīrah, particularly the rebellion of the Bedouin Walīd ibn Ṭarīf, who challenged government forces between 794 and 797. Even the most commanding governments found it hard to extend their authority beyond the limits of the settled land.

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